10 Free Downtown Date Ideas

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Explore free downtown Durham date ideas, from skee-ball tournaments to art gallery hops to coffee tastings and more

skee-ball tournament, Durham date night
David Delaney Mayer and Carrie Rains compete in the Wednesday skee-ball tournament at Boxcar Bar + Arcade as pup Luna cheers on the twosome.

Compiled by Morgan Cartier Weston and Lena Miano | Photo by John Michael Simpson

Wednesday Skee-Ball Tournament Elevate your date night with an adrenaline-pumping skee-ball showdown at Boxcar Bar + Arcade every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Team up and go head-to-head against fellow competitors vying for a shot at glory and a chance to claim prizes. Make sure to register promptly by 7:45 p.m. and get a few practice rolls in. Anyone can participate, but you better bring your A-game. “The last round is a skill-shot round, so it’s not your typical way of throwing a skee-ball,” says tournament host Malik Jones. “I might have [participants] sit in a chair and throw, or sit on a machine and roll backward, or put an obstacle in the lane, whatever to make it a skillful shot – it could make or break you in the end.” Come prepared for a little friendly competition with your significant other, and let the good times roll!

David Mayer, Carrie Rains and Luna

Third Friday Durham Take in brightly colored activist art, earnest landscape drawings, abstract portraits and stunning photographs as you gallery hop with your honey during this monthly event. In nearly every gallery (and there are nearly 20 including 5 Points Gallery, Cecy’s Gallery & Studio and the Durham Arts Council), you will encounter the artists themselves or the gallery owners who know and work with these artists on a daily basis. We recommend starting with a tour at 21c Museum Hotel, which meets in the lobby at 5 p.m. Or choose to end your evening there – it’s open 24/7.

Museum of Durham History Explore this living museum at 500 W. Main St. as you and your boo learn more about our city. Durham’s history and future come to life through recorded stories and curated displays and continues outside its doors with its “Faces of Durham” exhibit, which features a selection of familiar and lesser-known faces from the Bull City’s past and present, as well as its History Groves – honorary sites with plaques scattered around Durham that contain stories about the people who dedicated their lives to the betterment of our community.

Durham’s Murals by Bike Tour The first Saturday of each month, join Preservation Durham for a docent-led cycling tour of larger-than-life art. Held in a partnership with the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Museum of Durham History, the two-wheel tours meet at the Major the Bull sculpture at CCB Plaza and last about 90 minutes; pre-registration is required.

American Tobacco Campus Spend a lively evening among views you’ll only find in Durham. Hang out on the lawn chairs and watch the lights come on in front of the Lucky Strike Water Tower, or enjoy a drink while you walk around (ATC is part of Durham’s downtown social district, The Bullpen). The lawn hosts frequent events and programs, including concerts with Duke Arts, so there’s always a reason to check out this popular spot with your sweetheart.

Durham County Main Library Bring your own coffee and choose a book for each other to read, or check out the calendar to see what events are coming up soon; game nights, yoga lessons, scavenger hunts and themed classes are all regular fixtures at this modern library branch at 300 N. Roxboro St.

Durham Central Park Create a design together at the interactive Pixel Wall, catch some tricks at the skate park, explore the gardens, take a free yoga class on Saturdays or just bring a picnic blanket and relax. DCP is also home to regular free-to-attend events like food truck rodeos, markets and concerts, which are announced on the park’s website and Instagram account.

Tasting at Ten Get a taste of what goes into a sustainable signature cup of Joe at Counter Culture Coffee. Every Friday at 10 a.m., explore different beans and brewing options during a complimentary tasting at the company’s Durham headquarters at 812 Mallard Ave.

Durham Performing Arts Center Tour Who says Mondays can’t be fun? Bring your musical-loving loved one out for a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes on at DPAC – see the backstage area, take a walk across the platform where the magic happens and enjoy city views from the Skyline lounge. Tours last about 45 minutes and must be booked in advance.

Downtown Durham Dog Park Bring your four-legged third wheel to this park at the corner of Roxboro and Elliott streets to meet new friends and get some exercise. Dogs must be preregistered with Durham Parks and Recreation to use city dog parks.

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Morgan Weston

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